WHICH FOODS TRIGGER YOUR IBS?
You may already be all too aware of which foods and drinks make your IBS symptoms worse. Sometimes, though, I’ve had clients come to me, who found it difficult to pinpoint which foods were the culprits. What’s become clear from seeing clients over the years is that everybody is different. Foods that affect one person badly are fine for someone else.
Have you heard of the FODMAP diet?
If you have – great! You’ll know that it identifies foods, which can be problematic for people with IBS. I’ve had some clients who hadn’t heard of the FODMAP diet, so in case you’re unfamiliar with it, here is some information:
The FODMAP diet was first developed in Australia and then adapted for the UK by a team at King’s College, London. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols – no wonder they shortened it! FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates, which don’t get absorbed well by the small intestine. They increase water in the small intestine, producing loose stools and then get fermented by bacteria in the large intestine, creating gas and bloating.
The FODMAP diet involves avoiding foods high in FODMAPs, which include certain vegetables and fruit, pulses, some dairy products, bran, and wheat foods, including bread, cereal and pasta. Here’s a list of just some of them:
Vegetables: Onions, garlic and leeks, cauliflower, cabbage, mushrooms, peas
Fruit: Apples, peaches, pears, plums
Milk: cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s, cream
Barley & rye
Cashews & pistachios
This isn’t the full list, by any means.
Also, while the FODMAP diet gives some good guidance and can help with IBS symptoms, it hasn’t totally solved things for a number of my clients. Many of them certainly shared problems with onions, but other than that, the foods they found helpful to avoid varied enormously. Sometimes this has included low FODMAP foods as well. One of my clients couldn’t tolerate bananas or citrus fruit, for example, which are low FODMAP.
How best to follow the FODMAP diet
If you do want to follow the FODMAP diet, the recommendation is to stop eating high FODMAP foods for 4 to 8 weeks and then gradually re-introduce them. Depending on whether they affect your IBS or not, you can build up a personalised list of which foods to avoid. You can find more information about the FODMAP diet at:
If you haven’t done so already, it can be helpful to keep a food diary to see what triggers your IBS symptoms, noting down everything you eat and drink and in what quantities. Maybe reducing certain things, rather than cutting them out completely, might bring you some improvements.
Find a dietitian or nutritional therapist
If you intend following the FODMAP diet, it’s best to find a dietitian or nutritional therapist qualified in its use. They’ll make sure that you continue to have a balanced diet and don’t miss out on important nutrients for your health. Also, avoiding high FODMAP foods is not always straightforward, because they can be hidden in packaged and processed food. Corn syrup and some other sweeteners often used in processed foods are prime examples of that.
There is a FODMAP app, which has been developed by King’s College London and Guys & St Thomas’ NHS Trust. It helps guide you through the different stages of the FODMAP diet and scans food bar codes to help you identify suitable products. You can download it from the usual places for £3.99 last time I looked.
It’s not all about the food, though
Avoiding certain foods can certainly be helpful, but it’s not the whole story with IBS. Equally as important is reducing and/or managing the stress that is a key contributor to making IBS worse. It’s essential to look at the stress you might be under from work, family commitments, financial problems and other external factors and find healthy ways of dealing with it. It’s also essential to look at the stress you put on yourself by perfectionism, taking on too much, not saying ‘no’ and negative thinking. Time after time, when my clients have learned to get their stress under control, I’ve seen their IBS symptoms get better and their quality of life improve in so many ways.
Would you like to transform your IBS?
(Photo by Kornelija www.stockfreeimages.com)